In a lot of ways, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s epicenter is the lake, covering an area the size of Atlanta. Headwaters of the Yellowstone River and home to native cutthroat trout, whose spring spawning run up tributaries feeds grizzlies, eagles, ospreys, otters, and other wildlife.
Bucket biologists introduced lake trout to Yellowstone in the 1990s, straining the relationship between native fish and the species which depend on them. Lake trout are fall spawners, and they don’t run up tributaries- meaning they’re largely off the menu for Yellowstone’s wildlife. They don’t duplicate the function native trout play in the ecosystem.
Ever since, Park Service biologists, Trout Unlimited volunteers, and fisheries biologists from surrounding states have been working to reduce lake trout abundances through harvest, netting, and efforts to suppress reproduction. For a third year, number of harvested lake trout has declined, suggesting an overall reduction in population size.
Work is far from finished, and it’s unlikely total eradication will ever be possible. But through sound management, restoration of native trout stocks can lend resilience to the ecosystem as a whole.